Rand Revolt of 1922

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  • Topic: South Africa, Afrikaner, Jan Smuts
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History Essay
SSH201
Rand Revolt of 1922 and its economic and political repercussions.

Introduction:
In my essay I shall be discussing the Rand Revolt and its outcomes: Why it began, who the leaders were, the end result of the fighting, political repercussions, economic repercussions and ending with my conclusion. The Rand, or Red, Revolt includes a number of important people on both sides of the conflict. Unlike many other conflicts around the country at the time, this was a white on white conflict. Not necessarily a British vs Afrikaner fight because both sides had people of both origins on their side. This event was the result of a build-up of riots and itself carved a path for some political and economic reforms. The revolt itself is a major part of South African political history on its own. There was a great deal of wrong from both sides and no one in particular was the bad guy in a common sense. The workers that survived saw it as "a valiant struggle for the democratic rights of labour..." (Herd, 1966, p. 13) and the from another viewpoint it was seen as "an unheroic defeat for labour's basic principles..." (Herd, 1966, p. 13) The ideas of the workers, however, were very conflicting as I will discuss later on in the essay.

The Beginning:
Scholars have varied ideas about why the revolt began. These range from the mine owners' proposal to remove the colour bar to the need to the mine owners' taking an offensive against white labour by providing black miners with better opportunities. (Krikler, 2011). The mine owners were about to implement a plan to cut back on white skilled labourers and introduce black labourers into semi-skilled and skilled jobs that they would be willing to do (for far less money) than what the mine owners were paying their white employees. White mine workers constituted 20000 of the of the 200'000 strong workforce, with that 20'000 costing them more than the entirety of the black workforce. Thus the owners would be removing the colour bar, not in its entirety, but enough so that they could get rid of expensive white labourers and subsidise them with black labourers. The strikes started in January and by March it turned into an uprising which was "the biggest demonstration of workers of European origin in the history of Africa."(http://continuityafrica.com/south-africa/88/292-rand-revolt-1922.html) Now, the mine workers were striking for unfair labour practices, which is quite contradictory considering that 10's of thousands of black labourers were working for way below minimum wage. The mine owners, instead of actually removing the colour bar completely, were actually exploiting it in a way. The white mine workers had no choice but to strike and revolt. The Afrikaners needed the money as they had been forced off the land and into poverty, leading them into the only work they could find: the mines. "The Afrikaner workers...identified the theme of the struggle with the policy of the National Party: the continuing power and security of the white race." (Herd, 1966, p. 21) Of course, none of the black workers went on strike or joined the revolt. They were the ones who would actually benefit. One could say that the black miners were actually rooting for the government to put down the revolt, so that they would have better jobs and obviously earn more money. They could not possibly know that the mine owners were only exploiting them. The educated elite probably saw it as a step in the right direction, as blacks were now getting more opportunities to find work on the mines and finding it easier to support their families back home. The revolt was actually just a classic class struggle, free from political influence as ruled out by evidence. The workers were resentful towards the mine owners and their contemptuous attitudes. (Herd, 1966, p. 19)

The leaders of the Rand Revolt:
Over the course of time, some trade union members around the mine became attracted to the idea of socialism and...
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